As an uneducated consumer who bought products based on price—for the most part—and took product names at face value, I didn’t know what I was truly buying. When I saw vegetable oil, I assumed it was oil from vegetables…more than one vegetable. When I purchased shortening, I assumed I was buying fat rendered from animals. Perhaps this was true fifty or maybe thirty years ago, but by no means is that the case today.
Below are a few products I purchased—blindly—before I took note of the true ingredients.
Vegetable Oil: In this case, Mazola Vegetable Oil
What does this product of USA contain? Soybean Oil…that’s it. Soybean. That’s the extent of the vegetables.
Knowing that more than 90% of all soybeans grown in the United States contain GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and that I was consuming them and feeding them to my children horrified me. My goal is to eliminate GMOs from my diet, so buying American soybean oil is going in the wrong direction.
I use vegetable oil in pancakes, cakes, stews and other baked goods as well as a lubricant while pan cooking. Other recipes—such as cookies—call for a solid product, aka shortening.
I believed all shortening was rendered fat from animals. The only difference was the quality, so when I shopped for shortening, if I had the money, I bought the brand names—Crisco, Tenderflake, etc. If I was short on cash, I picked up the cheap stuff; the noname or store brand. The quality wasn’t as great, but hey, it was still lard. Right?
The cheapest shortening I’ve bought is Compliments. That’s the brand name for Sobeys products. It’s an All Vegetable shortening…mmm…All vegetable doesn’t hint at animal fat. But I remind you, I didn’t shop by thoroughly reading the ingredients. I shopped by habit. Shortening was lard.
The ingredients listed on the box of Compliments Vegetable Shortening are: hydrogenated soybean and/or canola oil, hydrogenated modified palm oil, mono- and diglycerides, BHA, BHT and citric acid.
It’s prepared for Sobeys in Mississauga, Ontario. Does that mean the soybean and canola were grown in Canada? Or were they grown in the United States and shipped to Ontario where the shortening was produced? Regardless of where the soybean was grown, I don’t believe I’m safe from GMOs. Canadian farmers also grow soybean containing GMOs. Our local Co-op has a sign offering it for sale to the farmers in Nova Scotia. It’s Round-up Ready soybean.
Canola Oil is just as bad as soybean as far as GMOs are concerned, so I’m ousting canola from my diet, too.
What about the other products in the shortening. What are they?
Mono- and diglycerides
According to the Enable website, “mono- and diglycerides are fats. They are made from oil, usually soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, or palm oil, act as emulsifiers (provide a consistent texture and prevent separation), and are used in most baked products to keep them from getting stale.”
According to Wikipedia, it’s Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): “It is a waxy solid used as a food additive with the E number E320. The primary use for BHA is as an antioxidant and preservative in food, food packaging, animal feed, cosmetics, rubber, and petroleum products.”
According to Wikipedia, it’s “Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), also known as butylhydroxytoluene, is a lipophilic (fat-soluble) organic compound, chemically a derivative of phenol, that is useful for its antioxidant properties. European and U.S. regulations allow small percentages to be used as a food additive, but that is with controversy as there are claimed links to child hyperactivity as well as to cancer, and conversely, BHT is advocated as a diet supplement and antiviral useful against herpes family viruses.”
MORE: BHT is added to food to keep the oil from going rancid. The Good Human has additional information on which products contain BHT and why you shouldn’t consume it.
To learn more about the dangers of BHA and BHT, visit David Suzuki’s website.
…so, does this product sound healthy? I’ll leave that answer up to you.
Another product I’ve used is Crisco Shortening—which also happens to be an ‘all vegetable’ shortening (to my surprise, not a lard).
The ingredients of Crisco Shortening are: soybean oil, hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, citric acid. Crisco is a product of the USA, so it’s almost guaranteed the soybean contains GMOs. Since we’ve already discovered what mono and diglycerides are, let’s see what TBHQ is.
Natural News states: “Tertiary Butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ as it is more commonly referred to as, is in fact a chemical preservative which is a form of butane. It is used in foodstuffs to delay the onset of rancidness and greatly extends the storage life of foods.”
It goes on to say: “TBHQ is used in many foods, ranging from crackers to crisps to fast foods. It is also found in certain brands of pet foods, as well as in cosmetic and baby skincare products, varnish, lacquers and resins.”
Crisco Shortening doesn’t sound so great anymore.
Another shortening I’ve used many times over the years is Tenderflake. The ingredients in it are: lard, BHA, BHT, citric acid.
Wow! A product that actually contains lard. Mind you, the animal this is derived from may have been—probably was—fed GMO corn and other products unsafe for human consumption. We already know what BHA and BHT is, so let’s define citric acid.
According to Wikipedia, Citric Acid is a “weak organic acid. It is a natural preservative/conservative and is also used to add an acidic, or sour, taste to foods and soft drinks.”
Wikipedia goes on to say “Citric acid is a commodity chemical, and more than a million tonnes are produced every year by fermentation. It is used mainly as an acidifier, as a flavoring, and as a chelating agent.”
That doesn’t sound horrible, but without further research, I don’t know if the end product of industrial citric acid is as harmless as the naturally occurring version in citrus fruits.
A shortening brand I’ve bought in the past, but haven’t for a year or so, is Fluffo. A quick search on the Internet informs me this product is made by Crisco.
The ingredients are: soybean oil, hydrogenated palm and soybean oils, mono and diglycerides, TBHQ, citric acid. The shelf life is 24 months. Two whole years! The preservatives must work incredibly well.
Once again, I’m surprised by the soybean ingredients.
This exercise in learning what the products I use on a daily basis contain was shocking. It opened my eyes to what I’m really putting into the foods I make for my family and me. Home cooking is supposed to be healthier than fast-food, but it’s only as healthy as the ingredients used to make it.
NOTE: Just because a product was one way forty years ago, doesn’t mean it’s made with the same wholesome ingredients today. Read the labels. Become educated. Know what you are buying, what you are eating and what you are feeding your family.